May 14, 2013
Google Rivals Warn Of Search Giant’s Dominance
Peter Suciu for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
Search engine giant Google has found itself under scrutiny in Europe again, as rivals contend that it has the potential to reinforce its dominance unless European Union regulators can win more concessions from the company. The rivals allege that Google restricts consumer choice and competition.
Google currently commands about 90 percent of the share of the search business in the EU, and last month its competitors were given a month to review Google´s proposed changes to how it runs its search engine business in the 27 nations that make up the member bloc.
On Tuesday, United Kingdom-based price comparison site Foundem urged competition regulators in Brussels to reject Google´s formal offer of concessions. Foundem´s co-founders Adam and Shivan Raff outlined an initial response to the commission in a 10 page document.
“It is difficult to imagine a Competition case where the stakes for consumers and businesses could be any higher. As the gateway to the Internet, Google plays a decisive role in determining what the vast majority of us discover, read, use, and purchase online. The importance of ending Google´s ability to manipulate this unprecedented power to its own anti-competitive ends cannot be overstated. It is no stretch to say that the hopes of a digital-led economic recovery may depend on the outcome of this case.
“There are many problems with Google´s proposals. But one fundamental flaw undermines every clause: the proposals ignore the natural search results and AdWords listings that Google is being charged with manipulating,” Foundem´s co-founders wrote.
The German online mapping service Hotmaps was also equally critical of Google´s dominance in the market.
“The suggestion to let rivals bid and pay for special 'rival links' is unacceptable. If Google has anti-competitively harmed rivals by demotion and self-preferencing, it needs to remedy the damage done and not be paid to do so,” Hotmaps CEO Michael Weber told Reuters on Tuesday.
Google spokesman Al Verney responded that the search giant will continue to work cooperatively with the commission. Google has already offered to clearly label its individual services as a Google property on its search engine, and it could explain to users why it is linking to a Google product from the search site. Google would still have its services ranked as high as possible in search results but said it could offer users an alternative link to rival products when available.
If Google is found to have breached EU rules it could face fines as great as $5 billion or 10 percent of its global turnover.
Google troubles are not limited to its search results. Last month, 17 companies filed a complaint with EU regulators over concerns that Google is in violation of antitrust laws perpetrated by the company´s Android business practices. These 17 companies — which include the likes of Kayak, Microsoft, Nokia and Oracle — comprise the so-called FairSearch Coalition that brought the suit.
The companies stated that Google´s Android is a “Trojan horse,” which is used to steer more traffic toward its own sites and services.
Google has also been investigated in the past in the United States for search practices. Following those investigations, the FTC found that Google did not alter search results to hurt the competition.